If you had told me a year ago that my diet would look the way it does now, I absolutely would laugh in your face. As my roommates would attest to, my diet my senior year of college consisted of pasta with butter and Parmesan cheese, no vegetables, and a lot of snack foods. Cutting out meat would be one thing (bacon though…), but cutting out dairy???? NO WAY! I always knew that dairy was a culprit when it comes to acne, but in my mind it wasn’t worth cutting it out. It was just SO dang good! Flash forward to today and I have absolutely ZERO desire to eat any form of dairy. I hate the way it makes me feel and the taste no longer appeals to me. So what changed? My reasoning for making the change was much more deeply rooted in my heart. It was no longer just about myself anymore, it was more about the harm that I was supporting with my actions and the choices I was making.
In the first month of my teacher training, we were practicing the first yama of the Yoga Sutras, ahimsa, which means non-harming. It was eye-opening to observe my actions, thoughts, and words in my everyday life and see how much harm I was causing other beings, the environment, and myself. I made the decision that I would try going vegetarian for the month because although I didn’t know much about the meat industry, I knew it was causing harm to the environment and obviously it was harming the animals.
This change was actually incredibly easy for me. I’ve always enjoyed meat (bacon was always my favorite food), but I would never eat very much of it. I went cold-turkey (lol) and just cut it out completely in one day. As I looked more and more into the truth behind the meat industry, the more connected to this decision I became. I started watching documentaries like Earthlings and Forks Over Knives and knew I could never go back to eating meat. But the more I talked about why I went vegetarian, the more I realized I was half-assing my efforts to not cause harm by not going vegan. It’s easy to understand how harm can be done in the meat industry, but the dairy and egg industries are deceptively just as brutal. The only thing that ever held me back from going fully vegan was my love for cheese, but the more I connected with my desire to end this support of and contribution to the harm inflicted on other innocent beings, the less and less I wanted to indulge in these foods that made me feel awful to begin with. So, just like that I went vegan.
Now, I will admit that making such an extreme dietary change as quickly as I did might not be the greatest idea. My body did go into a little bit of shock and I started getting pains in my body and had to stop practicing yoga for a little while, but I feel that my body has adjusted itself for the most part at this point. I was getting suggestions from people to add back in a little bit of meat just so my body could adjust quicker, but I simply couldn’t get myself to do that. I did add in eggs from a local farm where the chickens are pasture-raised, but I’m in the process of working those back out because they won’t be available to me when I move out and I just don’t think it’s necessary for me to have them.
Now for some commonly asked questions that have come my way since going vegetarian/vegan:
1. How do you get protein??
This question always sends me on a little rant…there is protein in everything that grows and while the concentration of protein per gram is much higher in meat, there are still plenty of protein rich, plant-based foods out there. These are some examples that I try to incorporate into my diet every day:
- Seeds (chia, hemp, flax, pumpkin)
- Nuts and nut butters (cashews, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pistachios)
- Grains (quinoa, brown rice, oats)
- Beans (chickpeas, pinto beans, black beans)
- Green peas
- Vegan Protein Powder (I use Vega Protein and Greens but I’m not really sold on it so if anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears)
As you can see, there are so many different ways to get protein. Oh and by the way, most people on a normal diet consume well over the required daily amount of protein and well under the amount of fiber necessary. We don’t need as much protein as most people think. That being said, I do have to put some thought into orchestrating my meals in a way that there is some sort of protein in every meal…but it’s super easy and I definitely don’t have to worry about fiber!
2. But aren’t humans supposed to eat meat? I mean look at our teeth!
I disagree with some vegans on this topic in that I believe that we are supposed to eat meat. We are part of the natural food chain and I believe that in removing ourselves from that, we our removing ourselves from that natural state. My issue is that there is nothing natural about the way we consume meat. If you are one of those people who hunts for their food in a sustainable way, all the more power to you. But most people don’t live like that. When we force animals to live in confined spaces and endure horrifying torture…there’s nothing natural about that.
3. How do you feel about other people eating meat around you?
I don’t judge people. I was in that same position 7 months ago, so who am I to judge? That doesn’t mean it doesn’t freak me out, but I make an effort not to make anyone feel bad or guilty about there choices.
On another point, I also don’t preach to people about this topic. I only talk about it if people ask me questions and I only tell people I’m vegan if people question why I’m eating something out of the ordinary like straight pasta with sauce at a nice Italian restaurant. This entire post is of course a little bit of a rant, but I assume the only people who are still reading this are ones who are interested in the topic or have been thinking about removing some form of animal products from their diet.
Vegans have a bad rap for being known to preach to people and make them feel guilty about their choices. This often just separates people further. I don’t believe that this is an effective method for positive change. My approach is to demonstrate through my own actions and choices just how fulfilling, easy, and affordable a vegan lifestyle can be. There are SO many reasons to go vegan and I believe that in their own time, people will find a reason they connect with to make the transition.
4. So what the hell do you eat every day?
I think when most people imagine what a vegan eats every day they imagine rabbit food. Just salads and kale and more kale. But in fact I am not a big fan of kale. And I’ve made myself maybe two salads since I went vegetarian. There are so many options out there and I find that I’ve became a lot more creative with my food. I eat a lot of Mexican (SO much guac), Greek, Italian, Asian (found a new love for avocado cucumber sushi rolls), and Smoothies. I’m going to do another post on what I eat in a day, but what I’ve found since going vegan is that I love food SO much more. I love cooking and baking and I actually take the time to prepare my foods. A lot more mindfulness has been brought to the things I put into my body and I love that!
5. Do you feel a difference?
YES! I use to have incredibly intense abdominal pains pretty much every time I ate anything and that has completely disappeared! I hardly ever feel bloated and I have a much stronger connection with my body. I have a MUCH better relationship with food and I’ve never felt like I had more control over the things I’m putting in my body. This has absolutely been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made 🙂
If you have any questions or have something to say about this topic, please feel free to reach out to me!